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Old 01-07-2013, 08:32 PM   #1
Jays2013
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*Deep breath* FINALLY ... An April 2013 PTR!

So. This is my first trip report/pre-trip report, so please bear with me.

Let’s start with the Ws …

WHO: My family. That would be me, my DH, and our sons. I’ll call them … hmm … Luke (8) and Ben (4)

WHAT: Our first trip to WDW in seven years. DS2’s first trip ever!

WHEN: April 23 to May 1, 2013

WHERE: From the Buffalo, N.Y.,area to WDW! Staying at the Art of Animation resort in a Finding Nemo suite.

I’ll leave the why and how for the next post.
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Early planning for April 2015!

Me DH DS1 (9) DS2 (5)

---
April 2013 Art of Animation Nemo
Feb. 2006 Pop Century
Nov. 2003 Coronado
Sept. 2002 Animal Kingdom Lodge (honeymoon!)
Three trips as a child,
including one stay at Port Orleans French Quarter
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:41 PM   #2
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The background:

My DH and I love Walt Disney World. And it’s become pretty entwined with our lives, over the years.

He went to the Magic Kingdom countless times as a child, including a trip in November 1971, barely more than a month after it opened. He was 4, and his two clearest memories are his mom, all excited, taking him by the shoulders and telling how HOW HE NEEDED TO REMEMBER THIS FOREVER … and also riding the monorail. Many more visits followed to the parks throughout the years, but he never stayed on site …

Until I came along.

I didn’t visit WDW at all until I was 12. My family (parents, younger brother, me) went when I was 12, 16 and 18. (The last was my final family vacation with them.) As a treat for my mom, who always wanted to stay on property, my dad made reservations at Port Orleans (now Port Orleans French Quarter). It was a blast.

That was 1992. The next time I visited WDW, it was in 2001 and I was in Florida with this guy I was dating, and we drove into the parks just for a day. In the fall, That Guy proposed. I married DH about a year later. :D
We originally planned to honeymoon in Hawaii, but eventually admitted to each other that it would be SO COOL to honeymoon at Disney World. I sold him on the idea of staying on property. He’s glad I did.

We originally booked the Caribbean Beach resort, but it closed for renovations during our planned stay … and we were bumped to the Animal Kingdom Lodge! At first, we were disappointed (put a lot of research into our choice), but we wound up thrilled. AKL still has a soft spot in our hearts. We spent 10 days there. Wonderful, wonderful honeymoon.

We had so much fun that we very much wanted to show our parents the joys of Disney again. My folks hadn’t been since that last family trip, and a lot had changed. My new MIL had never stayed on site. We were in a good place financially and wanted to share it with them … so we booked a stay for all of us at the Coronado Springs resort for November 2003. They were uncertain originally (didn’t want to accept something from “the kids”), but finally gave in.

We’re glad they did … but probably not for the reasons you imagine.

My DH is older than I am … by seven years. And his mother had children while on the older side, while my parents were pretty young when I was born. There is a 20-year age difference between my MIL and my mom. That means that during this trip, MIL was in her 70s. She’d had some health issues, but minor ones, and was quite spry. (The one and only time I’ve ever been on Space Mountain – the rest of the family hates roller coasters – she’s the one who went with me!)

But.

The first day there, we visited the Animal Kingdom, since my folks and MIL had never seen it. A minute or two after we got off, MIL had to sit down. Then she told DH to call for a doctor.

Long story short, we wound up at the Celebration Hospital. MIL had had a heart attack. Probably NOT at Animal Kingdom, but a so-called “minor” one before we’d even left for Disney World. She hadn’t felt well, but refused to “ruin” the trip.

Cue heart surgery (stent) and multiple trips back and forth from the hotel to the hospital. We didn’t see the parks much. My parents used the bus system to visit some, but DH was too worried and upset.

Things went as well as could be expected, and as a measure of that, MIL was actually released two days before our planned trip was up. She got to be pushed around the resort in a wheelchair and even sit by the side of the pool. (She loves to swim.) The last night, we all went to Le Cellier (DH’s favorite restaurant during our honeymoon) and watched Illuminations together. (Illumination means a lot to us … for multiple reasons …)

One night while DH and I were at Coronado Springs, after his mom was released but before we left for home, we found one of the hammocks by the water and sat there together, watching the stars. And we had a serious talk.

We’d always thought we would start trying to have children in another year or two. But this … adventure … had made us realize how much we wanted our parents to have the time to know and love and enjoy our kids.

We decided to move up the time table.
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Early planning for April 2015!

Me DH DS1 (9) DS2 (5)

---
April 2013 Art of Animation Nemo
Feb. 2006 Pop Century
Nov. 2003 Coronado
Sept. 2002 Animal Kingdom Lodge (honeymoon!)
Three trips as a child,
including one stay at Port Orleans French Quarter
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:53 PM   #3
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In February 2004, I found out I was pregnant. Much rejoicing … second grandchild for MIL (the first one was born days after we arrived home from that last Disney trip) and the first for my folks. There was much rejoicing! We moved from our apartment into our first house, and began to prepare to become parents.

Then … June 2004. My 30th birthday, and our gender-reveal sonogram. And these words from my doctor:

“That is not a healthy heart.”

The next few weeks were a blur. Our son, we found out, had a heart issue. It was one that could be fixed with surgery, but often came with other issues … some of which “were not compatible with life.” (I can barely even type those words …) A week of waiting that I never, ever want to repeat … and then the news that our son had Down Syndrome.

Well, that we could deal with.

He was born in November 2004, 9 pounds and more … when they said he’d been tiny. Successful heart surgery in spring 2005 – hopeful the only one he’ll ever need. He was healthy, happy and doing really well. And things settled again.

We started to plan. Yes, we knew DS wouldn’t remember a Disney trip when he was only a baby/toddler … but WE would. This would be a “we survived 2004/2005!” trip. We booked a week at Pop Century in February 2006, paid it off quickly and anticipated showing our son WDW oh-so-eagerly.

Then DH lost his job. His dream job. The job we thought he’d have … well, maybe even for the rest of his life.

I immediately was able to pick up my old full-time job and get us health insurance coverage again, but I didn’t make quite as much. DH picked up freelancing. Still, things were tight. However, since the trip was paid off (and we didn’t have trip insurance) he insisted that we go. We even had the dining plan, so there wouldn't be much OOP expense.

And despite all the stress, we had a blast. DS was a great traveler. While I don’t know that he remembers it, we do … and he LOVES to look through the scrapbook I made of the experience.

Then we returned home and started trying to get things back to normal.
It was rougher than expected. DH didn’t get a new (full-time) job until summer 2007. We had gone through our savings. There were repair bills and medical bills and trials and tribulations. Finally, though, we started getting out of the hole.

DS2 came along in summer 2008. Healthy as a horse, he’s adored his brother since he was a baby. We continued to dig out. We paid off my student loan. We finally paid off our car. We paid off a bunch of bills. We made much-needed home repairs. We saved. We scrimped.

And eventually, we were finally, finally in a position to start talking WDW again …
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Early planning for April 2015!

Me DH DS1 (9) DS2 (5)

---
April 2013 Art of Animation Nemo
Feb. 2006 Pop Century
Nov. 2003 Coronado
Sept. 2002 Animal Kingdom Lodge (honeymoon!)
Three trips as a child,
including one stay at Port Orleans French Quarter
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:57 PM   #4
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Before I talk about this particular trip and its planning, let me introduce the cast of characters just a little better.

Me. 38. Mom. Avid reader (mostly of fantasy, mystery and science fiction). Proud geek. Copy editor and writer. (Please don’t judge if I make typos here … this is an after-work activity! ) Cake and cookie decorator. (As a hobby.) Scrapbooker. Favorite author: Guy Gavriel Kay. Favorite TV shows: “The X-Files” (classic) and “Once Upon a Time” (current). Favorite Disney ride: Spaceship Earth (yes, really!). Favorite Disney movie: “The Lion King”

DH. 45. Dad. Avid reader. Hockey fan. Writer and editor. Big Star Trek and Star Wars fan. Favorite author: Timothy Zahn. Favorite TV shows: “Star Trek” (classic) and “Hawaii Five-0” (current). Favorite Disney ride: Pirates of the Caribbean. Favorite Disney movie: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” (yes, really … it was the first one he ever saw).

"Luke." 8. My sunshine. Loves music. Loves basketball. Loves water (and swimming). Loves food … although he’s so skinny he looks like we don’t feed him enough! Favorite Disney ride: Winnie the Pooh (at least it was seven years ago!). Favorite Disney movie: “Finding Nemo.”

"Ben." 4. Bright and energetic imp. Loves pre-K. Completely into all things Disney right now … especially “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” and “Phineas & Ferb.” This will be his first trip. He knows we’re going and loves to talk about it, but he doesn’t truly understand. I can’t wait to show him! Favorite Disney movie: He couldn’t make up his mind! I told him to sleep on it.
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Early planning for April 2015!

Me DH DS1 (9) DS2 (5)

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April 2013 Art of Animation Nemo
Feb. 2006 Pop Century
Nov. 2003 Coronado
Sept. 2002 Animal Kingdom Lodge (honeymoon!)
Three trips as a child,
including one stay at Port Orleans French Quarter
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Old 01-08-2013, 06:36 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jays2013 View Post
Me. 38. Mom. Avid reader (mostly of fantasy, mystery and science fiction). Proud geek. Copy editor and writer. (Please don’t judge if I make typos here … this is an after-work activity! ) Cake and cookie decorator. (As a hobby.) Scrapbooker. Favorite author: Guy Gavriel Kay. Favorite TV shows: “The X-Files” (classic) and “Once Upon a Time” (current). Favorite Disney ride: Spaceship Earth (yes, really!). Favorite Disney movie: “The Lion King”
Here I am from the April 2013 thread. I laughed at your comment about not judging you for typos. Years ago I was a freelance proofreader and I told people that proofreaders NEVER proofread their own stuff. Most likely I should have gone into copy editing instead of proofreading. I used to constantly be told, "Deb, you are not the editor, these errors you pointed out are things that an editor handles. It is not your job to correct the editors." Well, yeah, but don't you think the author wants their book to look its best?
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:15 AM   #6
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I am here!! I am Amy on Facebook.

We will be at WDW April 29th-May 7th. We were originally staying at AoA but we were lucky enough to upgrade to Deluxe CL. Although I'm still a little sad we are not staying at AoA.

My favorite show right now is Once Upon a Time. I LOVE IT!! I'm obsessed with Hook I think. My DH calls him my boyfriend, which he does for any TV character that I love. I tend to like the gray characters in shows... so Eric from True Blood is also another one of my boyfriends.
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:04 PM   #7
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Ha! I haven't watched a network TV show in so long; DH finds it funny that I like OUAT so much. :D I'm rather fond of Hook myself ...

Thanks so much for reading.
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Early planning for April 2015!

Me DH DS1 (9) DS2 (5)

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April 2013 Art of Animation Nemo
Feb. 2006 Pop Century
Nov. 2003 Coronado
Sept. 2002 Animal Kingdom Lodge (honeymoon!)
Three trips as a child,
including one stay at Port Orleans French Quarter
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:05 PM   #8
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It wasn’t until summer 2012 I finally started believing we could go back to Disney again.

And even then, it wasn’t a sure thing. We had to see how a few variables went. We had to play it safe and make sure we did all the practical, safe things first. And we did.

But on Sept. 5, 2012, my husband called me at work and, with a grin in his voice, asked me, “So … you want to go to Disney? Next year?”

I cried. CRIED. Sitting right there at work.

And then I grabbed the sheaf of notes I’d been quietly, hopefully compiling for months. And the planning started in earnest! (OK, I waited until I got home …)

The first decision was when.

We wanted to have time to truly plan and anticipate, so we reluctantly nixed fall 2012. And we didn’t really want to travel in December or January.

February 2013 seemed good crowdwise. But the last trip we took in February 2006 was cold … at least, for Florida. Considering it was single digits and snowy in Buffalo, we didn’t mind so much, but we could wear our winter coats at home … we wanted to swim in Florida! We never made it in the pool once.

March 2013 was running afoul of spring break and Easter crowd, as was much of April. Later May started getting into the hot temperatures that DH and Ben hate so much. Late April and early May, however …

We soon settled on late April, hoping for good weather and that the timing would help us avoid the spring breakers. We cleared things with Luke’s special education teachers and Ben’s pre-K. And we got a recommendation for a AAA travel agent through a friend of mine.

We figured we’d go value … probably Pop Century, although maybe Art of Animation Little Mermaid … and maybe six nights. It would be tough to get through everything we were hoping to do on the trip, but we were just so psyched to be going!

Then something happened. A good something, that started with a bad something.

DH lost a beloved relative at the beginning of the year. It had not been completely unexpected, but we mourned him. He loved us, and our boys.

And it turned out that he’d left us some money. And even after we did a bunch of responsible things with it … (New roof! Savings!) … we had a chunk *just for us* left over.

Gee. I wonder what he’d like us to do with it.

I ran numbers constantly for a few weeks. We weighed finally going back to our beloved Animal Kingdom Lodge (where we thought we’d never even dream of staying again). We looked at longer trips, enough to make things just a little more leisurely. We looked at special events we could do on the trip.
I made charts. Lots of charts. I subscribed to Touring Plans. I considered packages and park hoppers and water parks.

Then, finally, we were ready to book.
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Early planning for April 2015!

Me DH DS1 (9) DS2 (5)

---
April 2013 Art of Animation Nemo
Feb. 2006 Pop Century
Nov. 2003 Coronado
Sept. 2002 Animal Kingdom Lodge (honeymoon!)
Three trips as a child,
including one stay at Port Orleans French Quarter
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:07 PM   #9
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In early October, we did it. We booked our trip, and put a hefty sum down.

Eight days. Nine nights. Walt Disney World with our boys.

I cried again.

We went with Art of Animation … but a suite, the first of our upgrades. Why?

DH is tall … so tall that he’s not very comfortable in a double bed. He can do it, but only if he’s stretched out diagonally … so sharing one is difficult. And darn it, I have to sleep somewhere! So it would almost have to be a queen or king.

Also, Luke is a restless sleeper. As in, the child will take over a full bed given the chance. A bed of his own would be a tempting thing.

The extra space of the suite for two active boys, plus the kitchette, plus DH and I having our own queen bed, PLUS both boys having their own beds was too much to pass up. We seriously considered AKL (sigh), but the theming of AoA put it over the top for us this time. We picked the Nemo section because it’s Luke’s favorite movie.

We got a PIN number right before booking, and with that, decided to do an extra day. That gave us a resort day, which we thought was key.

What can I say? We splurged. After the past seven years, it felt SO good!
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Early planning for April 2015!

Me DH DS1 (9) DS2 (5)

---
April 2013 Art of Animation Nemo
Feb. 2006 Pop Century
Nov. 2003 Coronado
Sept. 2002 Animal Kingdom Lodge (honeymoon!)
Three trips as a child,
including one stay at Port Orleans French Quarter
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Old 01-09-2013, 08:02 PM   #10
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Roughly a week after booking, it was 180 days away. Time for ADRs!

I know some people don’t like the dining plan. But we did it during our 2006 trip and adored it. It worked for us … I finally got DH to try a bunch of more unique restaurants he’d never been in before … and I didn’t have to worry about him obsessing over the price of every meal.

It doesn’t work for everyone. But it worked for us.

So, of course, we booked it again. I started plotting a table-service meal a day, and even our counter-service options. I printed out menus from allears.com and other sites. I drove DH crazy, but we eventually came up with our final list. (Have I mentioned I’m a crazy, obsessive planner? No?)

I was online at 5:45 a.m. bright and early that morning. Of course, then the website didn’t work. I had to call a cast member at 7 a.m. … but we got everything we wanted.

Here’s where … and why.

DAY ONE: Dinner at Chef Mickey at the Contemporary. We ate here with tiny Luke in 2006 and had a ball. Since we’re not doing a park on arrival day, it seemed like a good way to introduce the boys to the magic of Disney. And Ben will get to meet the characters for the first time! He’ll be over the moon.

DAY TWO: We’re going to have breakfast in the room so that boys can have their familiar cereal or oatmeal. DH and I will probably go with granola bars. (And coffee … mmmm … caffeine. Why, yes, I AM an addict!)

This is a planned Magic Kingdom day. So, of course, I want to try Be Our Guest for lunch. The guys weren’t enthralled with it for dinner, so this is my compromise.

Dinner will be the Crystal Palace. (Another repeat from 2006.) Both boys love the Pooh characters … and Tigger is my favorite! … so I think it will be a huge hit.

DAY THREE: Hollywood Studios! I haven’t heard wonderful things about Hollywood & Vine, but we’re lunching there simply and solely so Ben can meet Jake (of the Neverland Pirates).

Dinner will be something at Downtown Disney (Cooke’s of Dublin, maybe?) before or after a DisneyQuest visit.

DAY FOUR: Animal Kingdom, so maybe Flame Tree BBQ for lunch. We’ll see.
DH’s one restaurant request for the trip was ‘Ohana, which he adores. (What can I say, he’s a carnivore. I’m not … but I am looking forward to trying the shrimp, since I do eat seafood.) It will be nice to see it again. We were there once in 2006.

DAY FIVE: Our resort day. Lunch at Art of Animation.

We had to get to visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge somehow, so we’re doing dinner at Boma. I just can’t wait to show the place to the boys … to take a deep breath of the spicy air … to walk out onto the savannah overlook …

AKL will always mean a lot to me.

DAY SIX: Epcot, so lunch will almost certainly be Sunshine Seasons.

Dinner will be my one restaurant request, someplace new for us: Cape May Café and the seafood buffet. I may not eat red meat, but I love me some crab legs. We’re going to walk over from World Showcase and then return after dinner.

DAY SEVEN: Day at Typhoon Lagoon, but heading back to Hollywood Studios at night … and another new restaurant for us, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. How did two sci-fi geeks like us miss this one before?

DAY EIGHT: A departure. Breakfast at a restaurant: Cinderella’s Royal Table.

I know I’m taking two boys to a princess party, but we thought this would be our one chance before they get old enough to realize that many people will expect them to be all “ewwww, princesses!” … and not see them simply as characters in the movies they love so much. Ben is a flirt, and I want to see how Luke will react to characters who can actually talk to him. I just want to get this one chance to eat in the castle as a family!

Lunch probably at Pinocchio’s at MK, by DH’s request.

DAY NINE: Departure day. Boo.
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Early planning for April 2015!

Me DH DS1 (9) DS2 (5)

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April 2013 Art of Animation Nemo
Feb. 2006 Pop Century
Nov. 2003 Coronado
Sept. 2002 Animal Kingdom Lodge (honeymoon!)
Three trips as a child,
including one stay at Port Orleans French Quarter
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Old 01-12-2013, 08:37 AM   #11
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At 180 days out from the day I wanted it, I tried to book the Pirates & Pals Fireworks Cruise.

When I’d been researching various “special” things to do at WDW, this one kept coming up. Ben loves, LOVES Capt. Hook and the ability to meet him (and Smee) for photos was a big draw. Plus I loved the idea of seeing the fireworks from a different perspective than a nook at a crowded park.

I tried to get the whole family involved, but DH didn’t think Luke would like it. Instead, they’re going to hang out at the Contemporary, play in the arcade (Luke LOVES Skee Ball), have a snack, sit by the water and watch the light parade and fireworks. The more low-key evening will probably suit them just fine.

Meanwhile, Ben and I would go play pirates! Arrr! :D

Then … I called at 6 a.m. No go. Call back in a few weeks, they say. Argh! Don’t they know what that does to a crazy planner?

I repeated the routine nearly once a week, probably driving the very nice Disney hotline folks a little crazy. Finally, on Dec. 6, the nice lady said, “Yes, there’s availability!”

Whooooo!

I can’t wait to do this with my youngest. He’s going to be so thrilled to meet Hook and go on an adventure. (Although I just realized that he has no idea that Peter Pan, Smee and Hook existed before “Jake and the Never Land Pirates.”

Fortunately, “Peter Pan” comes out on DVD on Feb. 5. Perfect timing!

Anyone done this cruised and liked it? We can't wait.
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Early planning for April 2015!

Me DH DS1 (9) DS2 (5)

---
April 2013 Art of Animation Nemo
Feb. 2006 Pop Century
Nov. 2003 Coronado
Sept. 2002 Animal Kingdom Lodge (honeymoon!)
Three trips as a child,
including one stay at Port Orleans French Quarter
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Old 01-12-2013, 08:38 AM   #12
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So, you might ask, what special activities will we do for Luke during our trip?

I thought over this a long time. What does he like the most? What would he love?

He is, in many ways, a pretty normal kid. But with his special needs, he’s younger than his 8 years. And he has his quirks … things he likes or dislikes that might seem a little unusual.

For example, he loves water. Loves it. Not just swimming pools … although he loves to go swimming, but just watching and listening to water. Fountains are a big hit. He loves to visit our local mall to watch the fountain and throw pennies in it.

He loves music, and will happily start dancing away, all by himself, when he hears something he likes.

He loves Skee Ball. His last few birthday parties have been at Chuck E. Cheese for this reason. He can play happily for hours.

He loves carousels. A tiny vintage amusement park in our area is one of his favorite things … with a carousel and small basic rides such as little cars and boats and rocket ships that rise off the ground.

And, in a way, the child really has his priorities together … because one of his favorite things is simply to have us all together. That doesn’t happen much these days. DH works one shift. I work another. The boys have school. We all get one full day off together during the week … and there’s usually a prior commitment going on.

I came to the conclusion that Luke won’t really want to do anything “special.”

He’ll want the time … time to sit and watch WDW’s many fountains … time to dance when he hears music … time to play Skee Ball when possible … time to swim.

Time for us all to be together.

We’re going to do our best to get him that time.

And we’re making sure to get to DisneyQuest once or twice for unlimited SkeeBall possibilities, and to Typhoon Lagoon because it’s the one thing he really lit up about when seeing it on the planning DVD. And, of course, we’ll all ride the Prince Charming Carrousel.

Together.
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Early planning for April 2015!

Me DH DS1 (9) DS2 (5)

---
April 2013 Art of Animation Nemo
Feb. 2006 Pop Century
Nov. 2003 Coronado
Sept. 2002 Animal Kingdom Lodge (honeymoon!)
Three trips as a child,
including one stay at Port Orleans French Quarter
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Old 01-12-2013, 10:26 AM   #13
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i did the P&P voyage last april. much better than dealing with the crowds and mass exodus at MK! i ended up being freezing on the boat though. it was probably nice and warm when we headed over at 7:00 but by 10:00 with the sun gone and being out on the water........ i brought a sweatshirt but had capris and sandals on and my ankles and feet were frozen, lol
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Old 01-12-2013, 06:54 PM   #14
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i did the P&P voyage last april. much better than dealing with the crowds and mass exodus at MK! i ended up being freezing on the boat though. it was probably nice and warm when we headed over at 7:00 but by 10:00 with the sun gone and being out on the water........ i brought a sweatshirt but had capris and sandals on and my ankles and feet were frozen, lol
Thanks for the tip! I tend to be cold, so I'll probably go for jeans. And make sure DS, who thinks he'd invulnerable, takes a sweatshirt.
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Early planning for April 2015!

Me DH DS1 (9) DS2 (5)

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April 2013 Art of Animation Nemo
Feb. 2006 Pop Century
Nov. 2003 Coronado
Sept. 2002 Animal Kingdom Lodge (honeymoon!)
Three trips as a child,
including one stay at Port Orleans French Quarter
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:22 AM   #15
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Location: Eden, NY
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Yeah another WNYer! So excited to hear all of your plans! We have gone in late Jan/early Feb our last two trips because we hate crowds and it has been reasonably warm for us especially since back home it would be 25 degrees and 12 inches of snow! We did not swim much either time unfortunately! I'm sorry to hear about the death of a relative but happy that it made things a little easier for you! We are hoping to head back to the World Feb 2014 so I may start my first PTR in a few weeks, have to get the taxes done first!
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